Leadership Amongst Friends – An New Online Woodbrooke Course

Woodbrooke Leadership Amongst FriendsI am co-facilitating an online course on Leadership Amongst Friends with Zelie Gross and John Gray, two Quakers from the U.K. The webinar begins on 23rd April and will go until 13th May 2018.

How does leadership work in our non-hierarchical Society of Friends, and what does it mean to take a lead when working in relationship with others? This course is for anyone across our programmed and unprogrammed traditions who is interested in questions of leading and building a participatory community within a Quaker context.

The structure of the webinar will be three sessions focused on:

  1. Pre course Induction Week
  2. Quaker distinctives in Leadership – John Gray
  3. Leadership and the self – Wess Daniels
  4. Leadership in Q communities – Zelie Gross
  5. Post-course week

Each week one of us will be the lead instructor, but all three of us will be participating in the calls and have been working closely to develop the curriculum for this course. Besides the three presentations there are going to be some really great readings, videos, and activities to help Friends reflect on their own leadership styles and practices.

I think this course is a really unique offering in the Quaker world and am very excited to get to participate in it with Zelie and John. Continue reading Leadership Amongst Friends – An New Online Woodbrooke Course

New Quaker Studies Publications Out

Looks good. Feeling proud. #quakerstudies

For those of you following this blog, I wanted to share with you two recent publications that I’ve worked on this past year in case you have interested in finding out more about them.

Quaker Studies: An Overview: The Current State of the Field Authors: C. Wess Daniels, Robynne Rogers Healey and Jon R. Kershner

Link to the publisher’s page

The first is a book co-authored with two other Quaker scholars, Jon Kershner and Robynne Rogers Healey. The three of us are associate editors on a 6 year project through Brill Publishing on Quaker Studies. We are working with editors Stephen Angell and Pink Dandelion on this this series, which is going to be quite amazing with some new and emerging Quaker scholars in the mix. I’m very excited about it. This initial book is an introduction to the series. Robynne, Jon, and I each introduce a pretty comprehensive look at the work within Quaker studies up until now in each of our respective areas: history, theology, and sociology. Continue reading New Quaker Studies Publications Out

Witnesses by Peggy Morrison

This morning we enjoyed an beautiful Easter sunrise service next to the lake on the campus of Guilford College. We had a bonfire going, read the Gospel of John’s account of the resurrection, enjoyed singing together, and shared in some silence as well. We had students, staff, faculty and members of the surrounding community join us. I found the time to be quite enriching. For the service, I asked a student if she’d be willing to read this passage from Peggy Morrison’s book, La Flambeau: School of Driving, called Witnesses. It’s powerful and worth sharing in its entirety here (with permission).

Witnesses by Peggy Senger Morrison

There are some things I was taught as a child to understand literally that I no longer understand that way. I do not think Noah got polar bears onto a boat. I do not think that all this magnificent Creation around us was made in just seven, 24-hour days. But some things –some very important things –I do still understand that way.

I do believe that He was resurrected. Bodily, on the third day. I will always believe this. For many reasons-but foundationally, fundamentally, deal-breakingly, because I will not betray the women.

All the Gospels say that Magdalene and a few other women were the first witnesses. Mark, the first writer, says that they were not believed. Matthew leaves that little shame out. John inserts Peter, and most likely himself, into the story; he does not mention incredulity.

Luke tries to make amends. Luke is interesting. Tradition says he was a physician in Antioch. Tradition says that Antioch is where Mary, His mother, fled. Luke has stories, like the birth story, that are women’s stories. Luke says this: “Their words seemed like non-sense (idle tales) and they believed them not.” They were not legal witnesses –no woman was. What a betrayal that must have seemed! –Or maybe they were just used to it. The eleven must have felt embarrassed a short time later. I hope they apologized.

Well, I guess some of them did. Mark put it into the story. Matthew and John seemed to want to forget –it would have been so easy to forget, to erase. But Luke was not letting them get away with it. He put the radical, ground-shaking witnesses in the story, and he documented the shame of their brothers. If you were cleaning up a myth to make people look good, you would take that bit out. The fact that Luke leaves it in, rings true. It is making amends, which always comes out of a place of truth.

Others could have erased it later. But no one did. Not the first tellers of the “story, or the first writers, or the successive copiers. The Nicene Council Patriarchs all –chose to believe the women, and document their witness and leave in the shame. For two millennia, no Pope or Patriarch, no potentate or preacher, no man has been able to wipe those women out of the story. No one has had the nerve. Until lately. It has become fashionable to doubt miracles. But to do so, you must discredit the reporters of the miraculous.

I will not discredit the voice of Magdalene, nor her spiritual mothers and sisters. I will not stand with the unbelieving brothers, the skeptics. I will not turn them into metaphor, or allegory, or hagiography. I will not let my modernist sensibilities blackball their words in shadow –less than other words, even the words of the Master. I won’t make them smaller. Their part has been shrunk enough already. I won’t discount them; they are already a bargain.

I know what it is like to not be believed when telling the Gospel Truth. I also know what it is like to create metaphor, and allegory, and hagiography. I have told tales and sold nonsense. I, a story teller, know the difference.

These women told the most important truth ever told. And if their witness is discounted in my presence, I will not be silent.

Because I believe them. Quite literally.

Purchase Peggy’s Book “Le Flambeau” here.

Originally posted to her blog: http://sillypoorgospel.blogspot.com/2013/03/witnesses.html

Using an Evernote Template for Research

I have become increasingly interested in creating templates for Evernote. A template is useful for things you might come back to a lot, such as a basic project plan or for a process you use a lot. Recently, I created a “template” with a checklist of steps I want to remember to do everytime we want to publicize an event at the college.

One template I recently created is a template for doing (Quaker) research. I wanted to share this because you could create something similar for your own writing and research in your own field.

screenshot.png

Background: This template is was created for an assignment I like to have my students do in class called a “biography as theology” paper.  In these papers, students are asked to write a biographical account that looks at how their person lived and what their living says about their believing (the idea is taken from James Wm. McClendon Jr.). This template lays out in pretty clearly the steps needed to develop a well-researched paper on their subject with all the links and necessary information to make it as easy as possible on the researcher later.

It occured to me after creating this, with a good bit of help from my Guilford College colleague and archivist Gwen Gosney Erickson, that this kind of template would be useful to me for my research as well. I can easily duplicate the note, put it into a new notebook created for my current research topic, and then plug in any specific sites and steps to fit the needs of the project. Not only do I not have to recreate the wheel, I a robust process already in place that can help me get started.

If you’re an Evernote user, feel free to click on the template link and click save to save it to your own Evernote library. If you’re not an Evernote user, what are you waiting for? After saving it, I’d encourage you to adapt it to your needs or create your own step by step template for your writing and research process.

Let me know if you have any questions or what you come up with in the comments below.

As The Seed Falls: Building a Generative, Convergent Quakerism

screenshot.png
Resurrection by John Jay Alavaro

This is the opening excerpt from a longer post on my Medium Blog about convergent Friends and the Renewal of the Quaker tradition.

A Seed Falls

Jesus, in speaking about his looming death, talks to his disciples in a metaphor that I want to draw on as we explore the topic of change and renewal together this evening.

He says:

“Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24 NRSV)

This is indeed a powerful image, not just because it is true, but because it lays the groundwork for Christian thinking around the idea of resurrection and how we might understanding the ongoing work of change and renewal within the Christian tradition.

It was later, in the 1970s, that this metaphor was applied as a model for thinking about change and renewal within the Quaker tradition by Everett Cattell, an Evangelical Quaker, missionary and president of my Alma Mater. He spoke these words to a gathering of Friends World Committee for Consultation Quakers concerned about the Future of Friends:

Perhaps the call is now before us for a new seeking: a seeking to find where God’s Spirit is actually at work in today’s world and then a giving of ourselves to work with Him — whether within or without the framework of Friends. The future of Friends may be like the grain of wheat, which must fall to the ground and die. Perhaps this would be the way to a new harvest (Cattell 1970:5).

These are tough words to take for Friends.

They are hard because it suggests that Friends may not be paying close enough attention to what God is doing out there, in our surrounding culture, an insight I think he brings as one who is missionary trained.

They are hard because they suggest that the “framework” of Friends is just that, a framework. Where it is helpful keep it, but where it becomes an obstacle to the real goal, which is joining in God’s work in the world, then we need to find new doors to enter and pathways to create.

“Sometimes we have to start over,” as Deborah Fisch shared during the 2016 North Carolina Yearly Meeting-Conservative sessions.

These words are also hard because they suggest that death is necessary for new life. The way we sustain what we love is by letting go of our control over that thing. It suggests, as Richard Rohr has said, our commitment to traditionalism can be our way of actually avoiding the tradition (Everything Belongs, 2003: 23).

I have seen this time and time again. Our commitment to protect and police the boundaries of Quakerism has led to a loss of the very center of our tradition. For example, consider the times when Quaker process has been used to avoid doing the real work of discernment. As our particular Quaker group becomes more and more concerned about survival, fearing and avoiding any kind of death or a falling of the seeds, we almost guarantee death. In the metaphor of the seed, avoidance of death is what ensures it.

If you’d like to continue reading the rest of this post click here to be taken to the full post on Medium.

New Essay on The Speed of Group Discernment

View story at Medium.com

I’ve posted a longer essay on the process of group discernment and some of the things that help move group discernment forward and some of the things that get in the way and keep it from moving along smoothly. This essay is over on my medium blog.

Here is an excerpt:

…When it comes down to thinking about a way forward on a decision, people are expected to distinguish between “principle and preference.”

During a meeting for business the clerk would often remind Friends to consider whether the concerns they were raising were a matter of preference or principle. This is not always easy to do and requires a good amount of ego work. But when I am honest with myself, when I have the good of the community at the forefront of my mind, then I am usually able to adjudicate between the two.

I know difference between saying something like, “We can’t stop doing that, that’s my favorite…” and, “If we did that it would radically change the nature of how we interact with that community and we made a commitment to them when we…” One is rooted in a narrative where my wants and desires and I am the center, the other is rooted in a narrative where our community’s needs or another community’s needs or God’s own calling is at the center.

Usually, in a community that cares for one another, when someone shares a preference, the rest know so, and are able to address it gently, sometimes in that Meeting, sometimes in other, appropriate settings. The same is true for principle. I have been in meetings where I have heard someone share a matter of principle that went against what I wanted. As I reflected on what the Friend said, I realized that what I wanted was a preference that did not rise to the level of a principle and so I needed to step back; I came to a place where I was able to say, “At the end of the day, if I am being honest with myself, this is only my preference and therefore I am able to let it go.

View story at Medium.com

Advent 2: Entering Mystery: From Wilderness to Forgiveness

This is the Message I gave to New Garden Friends Meeting on December 10, 2017.

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,

“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 1:1-8)

The Sterile and “Certainty” Modern Life

Here is a track from Radiohead’s “OK Computer,” not typcially a song played during advent, but as we go on through this message my hope is you will begin to see how it is related.

Fitter happier
More productive
Comfortable
Not drinking too much
Regular exercise at the gym (3 days a week)
Getting on better with your associate employee contemporaries
At ease
Eating well (no more microwave dinners and saturated fats)
A patient, better driver
A safer car (baby smiling in back seat)
Sleeping well (no bad dreams)
No paranoia
Careful to all animals (never washing spiders down the plughole)
Keep in contact with old friends (enjoy a drink now and then)
Will frequently check credit at (moral) bank (hole in the wall)
Favours for favours
Fond but not in love
Charity standing orders
On Sundays ring road supermarket
(No killing moths or putting boiling water on the ants)
Car wash (also on Sundays)
No longer afraid of the dark or midday shadows
Nothing so ridiculously teenage and desperate
Nothing so childish
At a better pace
Slower and more calculated
No chance of escape
Now self-employed
Concerned (but powerless)
An empowered and informed member of society (pragmatism not idealism)
Will not cry in public
Less chance of illness…

Continue reading Advent 2: Entering Mystery: From Wilderness to Forgiveness